Yo, wassup, ChipWINners, and welcome back to Quick Shots: the monthly album review column where I take aim at the latest the scene has to offer and determine if it’s worth jamming out to or if you should just walk on past it. This month, I’ve got music from an exciting Swedish composer who imbues all his music with radiance and positivity, as well as introspective, complex arias from an artist who’s new to the scene. Both producers bring records to the table that are worth dissecting, so let’s not waste any more time. Sit back, relax, and join me as I pick apart new releases from veteran chip artist nanobii and neophyte Taylor Eruysal.
Happy New Year ChipWINners! Welcome back to my column, So You Wanna Make A Chiptune! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. Normally, I’ve reserved SYWMAC for the review of hardware and software related to the production of chiptune to help you determine what would be best suited for you. However, with this being the first article of the new year, I thought I’d talk about something just as important: motivation.
I’m sure a great many of you have made resolutions to become more active, steadfast and prolific with your creative endeavors. Just like with any other resolution, I know you’re going to need help staying focused. It’s okay: concentrating on new goals, New Year’s resolutions or otherwise, can be a daunting task. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources within the scene to help you stay motivated! If you’re willing to work towards your larger goal by doing smaller goals, you’re guaranteed to make your dreams a reality in no time. Let’s not waste any more time. Come along with me as I guide you beautiful unicorns to pristine waters that I hope you will drink from!
Robot Unicorn Attack is TM and C of Adult Swim Games
Hey, ChipWINners! Welcome back to Raw Cuts! This time around, I not only took the time to sit down with someone whose interview was long overdue! Hailing from Philadelphia, this man has become a figurehead in the scene, paving the way for others to perform and become noticed in the vast wave of artists in the community while simultaneously earning the respect and recognition of those he encounters. This man is truly a senpai–nay, a sensei (snesei?)– among us in the scene, and he’s taken the time to sit down with me to talk about DJing, music production, collaboration, his involvement with us here at ChipWIN and some amazing projects that are sure to electrify! Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you my interview with Chris Davidson aka DJ CUTMAN!!!!
Kuma: First of all, I’d like to not only express my gratitude for agreeing to be interviewed, but also my excitement, as well! I’ve been looking forward to this all week! So thank you very much for agreeing to have a sit down with me!
Cutman: For sure! I love sitting.
Kuma: Hahahah! I expected nothing less from you, Chris. So lets jump right in, shall we? You’ve been in the music game a long time. Between your work as a DJ, a producer, founder of the GameChops record label, mainstay performer at various festivals including MAGFest and PAX East, you still manage to be an all around swell guy. Very down to earth. Tell me, how’d you get started in all this? When and how did this journey into video game related music begin for you?
Cutman: Back in 2010 I was working as an recording and mix engineer in a hip-hop studio in upstate New York. I used to stay after my clients left and work on making my own music, mostly chopped up beats sampling video game music. That same year I attended my first convention, MAGFest 8, with my buddy MC Death Bear. MAGFest was a blast, I had never been surrounded with so many like-minded people before!
A couple months after MAGFest, Death Bear asked me to put together some music for his 8-bit art show. I had only briefly been exposed to DJing by looking over the shoulder of another performer at MAG, so I studied up for two weeks straight and built my first DJ set.
After that show, which was both exciting and super stressful, I caught the bug for sharing music. I would DJ out on the street, in coffee shops, and in convention hallways, anywhere that wouldn’t kick me out (and maybe some places that tried to).
I produced a few mixtapes, a bunch of random remixes, and posted them regularly on Soundcloud and other places. I’m still doing that, making music and posting it! Running a label is fun, now I’m collaborating with friends and other producers and DJs I admire. The workload is more intense from when I started, but it’s the same basic mission: make good music, and get it to peoples ears.
Kuma: That’s awesome, and I think a lot of us can relate to the magic that festivals like MAGFest can fill a person’s heart with. That you’re a friend and collaborator of Death Bear is something I think is common knowledge in the scene, but I never knew you were so behind-the-scenes prior to being the persona you are in the community now. Did you ever think at the time, before you decided to start DJing, that you would ever be someone who would apply his skills outside of an studio? Or was that something that never occurred to you to do til after MAG?
Cutman: Haha, in all honesty, before i started DJing, I didn’t realize what it was all about. Now that I have four years live experience under my belt, I’m starting to really understand and appreciate the artistry involved. Just about everyone has had their iTunes on shuffle and an embarrassing song has come on at the wrong moment. A DJ creates the opposite effect, choosing the perfect song. That’s what drew me in to really enjoying performing as a DJ: the ability to take people on a journey and tell a story with music, or to simply provide a brilliant moment for someone passing through.
Kuma: Hahahahaha! I really appreciate not only your response but that you’re doing part of my job for me by choosing quality memes to post in the article! That aside, I not only really like your analogy but never thought of DJing in that kind of light before. You’re absolutely right, though. Whether one carries the philosophy that DJs can also be performers or are just mood setters not meant to be seen, its that creation and enhancement of mood that matters most in the craft.
Lets go back a little bit to something you mentioned earlier, which is getting to work with a lot of people you really like over the past few years. In particular, lets talk about the GameChops crew, cause not only do you have a strong roster working with you, but a lot of these guys are mutual friends you’ve scooped up only fairly recently, I’d say only in the course of a year or so. Tell me, what prompted you to move on to founding your own label, and what do you look for when scouting for talent in the scene?
Cutman: Well, GameChops seemed like a natural progression and a way for me to grow the VGM scene. When I changed GameChops from a mixtape series into a label, there were no other labels providing high quality, licensed video game remixes. No one! I want video game music to be more accessible, so it seamed that something I could do that would bring value to the scene.
Kuma: Wait, what? No… slow up for second…what?
Cutman: Did I miss something?
Kuma: Nobody put out licensed game remixes before you? That…I’m sorry, that just hurts my head! I mean it’s awesome you were the first to do it but still, it’s 2014, you’d have thought someone would have done it sooner.
Cutman: There were a few licensed remix albums floating around, but no labels, no dedicated groups to doing that. Nothing like GameChops: a group of people dedicated to producing high quality video game music, and paying licenses to give back to the game industry.
Kuma: That’s crazy. You know with communities like chiptune, Newgrounds, OCR, you would have thought someone would have done it years ago, but that you saw it hadn’t happened yet and were able to do so first as a label is pretty awesome! That’s definitely something to be proud of!
That said, let’s talk about some of those properties your label has covered, because you guys have done a lot! Zelda, Megaman, Megaman, Donkey Kong, Bastion, Final Fantasy 7, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, and the list goes on! Yet you’ve still only barely scratched the surface of the games you can tap into and remix! Tell me, how do you go about selecting titles to remix and which projects have been your fave to work on so far?
Chris: The source is up to the producer(s) who are working on the project. So if someone has a good idea of a game we haven’t covered yet, we work together to make it happen!
One of my favorites would have to be Grimecraft’s POKÉP. The whole mixtape came together in about three very intense weeks! Also, my album, MeowMeow & BowWow with Spamtron, that features music from Zelda: Link’s Awakening, was a blast to produce. That album was the opposite of POKÉP, it took a full calendar year before it was done!
Kuma: Wow that’s insane! I had no idea you guys spent that much time making that MeowMeow and BowWow. It was definitely worth it, though. I think that album is the closest to my heart due to the sentimental value Link’s Awakening has for me, as it was the first Game Boy game I ever owned.
Also, I’m not surprised at Grime’s speed making that album. At all. Clarke is a damn beast. But for all the bangers and grooves you guys at GameChops put together, I’m always caught off guard by just how diverse the team and the sounds you create are. Tell me, how did you go about recruiting the labelmates you have now? Do you actively seek out talent, have people submit to you, do a bit of both via networking? How do you go about keeping the roster fresh and exciting?
Cutman: It’s a bit of both. I always am keeping my ear to new producers with my show This Week In Chiptune, and also going out to shows and just listening to what other people are making. When I hear someone play something that really resonates with me, or something I would play during a DJ set, I take that as a cue to see if they’d like to collaborate on an album.
Collaboration is hard sometimes. It’s not as easy as producing some tracks on your own. The label has deadlines, budgets for artwork, and plans for promotion. Some people respond well to that little extra pressure, others don’t. So even if someone’s music is great, if they’d rather keep their producing a casual activity, then they may not be the best suited to collab. So it’s a combination of taste, skills, and if we’re creatively compatible. Haha, sound weird?
Kuma: No it sounds about right. For as cool as someone may be, it they don’t work on the same wavelength as you, it probably just won’t happen. Especially someone of your energy levels, which brings me my next question: how do you have time to work with us here on Chiptunes=WIN with all the stuff you do? And how’d you get wrassled up with that dickbutt loving noob Hoodie, anyway?
Cutman: Haha! Hoodie and I crashed in the same hotel room at Blip Festival years ago. We’ve been buds ever since. I’m lucky to have music be my full time gig now, so it’s my responsibility to make time for the projects that are important for me.
ChipWIN is a blast to work on, and although it may sound weird I really do love mastering. When an album comes together it can be profoundly satisfying.
Kuma: I’m glad you’ve managed to find something you’re passionate about that you’ve made it into something you can make money off of. That said, you tend to work at a very consistent clip, whether it’s This Week in Chiptune, working with us at ChipWIN, running your own blog VideoGame DJ, and tons of other projects I’m sure are escaping me at this time. Tell me: what can we expect from you in the near future?
Cutman: The shortlist: Sonic album “Spindash” with GameChops, video streams on YouTube, and lots more This Week In Chiptune!
Kuma: That’s it? What about the long list? The black list? The secret menu list? C’mon, you can tell me, Chris. I can keep a secret. After all: this is an interview, and I’m a blogger.
Cutman: Haha alright, I got you, Kuma. GameChops is releasing an album based on the Sega game Out Run called OutRax. I’m working on an album called OldStyle with my sister. It combines early Baroque music with chiptune and EDM. I’m also working on two albums that take inspiration from the 3DS game Bravely Default. [One is] a licensed remix album REMIX DEFAULT and [the other is] a free mixtape called MIXTAPE DEFAULT.
Kuma: Oldstyle sounds awesome! Yay Out Run remix! And I know my girl is gonna eat up those BD remixes! I can’t wait for all this awesomeness! Chris, it’s been a pleasure interviewing you. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing to our readers before we go?
Cutman: Subscribe to TWiC on Youtube! I had to recreate the channel and lost all the subs. Thanks Kuma this was a lot of fun!
Kuma: This was a lot of fun, Chris! Thank you very much for joining me!
That’s it for this edition of RCwK! Don’t forget to follow GameChops for the latest news about what remixes DJ Cutman and all the other GC artists have to offer! Also, check below for links to several other cool sites, including links for DJ Cutman on social media, the awesome music blog VideogameDJ, This Week in Chiptune, and GameChop’s Youtube channel! And of course, check back with us periodically for more interviews, album reviews, and music! Peace!
Hey ChipWINners! Welcome back to Raw Cuts! This time around, I took the time to chat with an artist I wasn’t really familiar with until rather recently, but in preparing for this sit down, I realized what a n00b I was for being ignorant of him til now! Combining 15+ years of experience, enthusiasm and dedication to his craft, this eclectic composer has not only blown my mind, but has recently released a new album which can easily be considered one of the best chip albums of the year! But don’t take my word for it! Sit down and join me as I take the time to get to know Paul Parr, the man also known as Petriform!
Kuma: First and foremost I’d like to thank you for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview! I know it’s early in the day for you, but it means a lot having you here with me.
Petriform: Thank you! It’s a pleasure speaking with you.
Kuma: So to start things off, I’d like to know how things started with you. When did your musical journey begin and what prompted you to take to composing and producing?
Petriform: Well, for as long as I can remember, my father was a solo performing musician; a guitarist. He played lots of covers, and must have decided at some point that he couldn’t cover everything he wanted with just a guitar, so he was an early adopter of MIDI synthesizers and sequencers – particularly ones that could accurately emulate real instruments. He would edit MIDI files to create backing tracks for himself, which he would then play back through a particularly good-sounding synthesizer for his live sets. That’s how I first got into composing – with a MIDI keyboard, a synthesizer, and some early version of the Cakewalk DAW. Just messing around with that stuff. I never took it seriously until the mid-2000s, when a friend got me way, way into Dance Dance Revolution, and, having heard about StepMania, the open-source counterpart in which one can add their own songs, I was driven pretty heavily forward to make my own songs for that purpose. That’s when I really started to step up and produce.
Kuma: Oh wow! So you’ve been at this for a while! But I notice you mentioned that you really didn’t take it seriously for a while. Does that mean you’re not a formally trained musician? Was music just something you picked up from watching your dad perform and produce over the years or did you actually take the time to take formal lessons with him or another teacher?
Petriform: I’m not formally trained. I picked up my very first composition and production habits from my dad’s setup, but I’m self-taught in most regards, having picked up things by listening closely to the music I like, and kind of attempting to emulate the theory that makes those songs so good in production after production. I don’t know much about formal music theory, and I can’t read music. I’ve always picked up instruments by ear, though I’m not particularly good at any of them. I think what it comes down to is a whole lot of listening and experimenting over the years. It builds up.
Kuma: I would definitely say it has! Having listened to the back catalog of your music available on Bandcamp, I can honestly say you’re one of the most diverse musicians I’ve interviewed on Raw Cuts! It’s that diversity I want focus on now in particular as I’ve noticed that between your solo work and your work with dtrx, your style changes a lot. Tell me what first brought dtrx together and how much of dtrx’s music is your input? Whats your creative process like with them vs when you’re working solo?
Petriform: All of dtrx is myself, actually. That’s a holdover from the years when I would use different aliases to release different genres and styles of music, kind of as a way to avoid people getting hyped for a release from me and having the result be completely different music than they’d expected. “dtrx” was always just kind of a placeholder signature, or label, to signify that whatever was released therein, I was ultimately behind. The multiple aliases deal is a very DDR thing, so I definitely picked it up from there. I think it was a good thing at the time, to diversify the styles of my projects so that I could explore them fully without having to meet anyone’s expectations. But recently I’ve felt it more appropriate to consolidate down to simply Petriform; the “dtrx” is pretty much only still there as a legacy sort of thing. It was great for me when I was experimenting with a ton of diverse projects, but I’ve been slowly phasing it out. I hope all of that makes sense!
Kuma: You dirty SOB, you pulled a fucking Peczynski on me!
Petriform: This is the part where I reveal myself to be Vince McMahon. “IT WAS ME, AUSTIN! IT WAS ME ALL ALONG!”
Petriform: But yeah, that whole gimmick was generally a tool to give me more space to experiment musically.
Kuma: Well, while I’m still hurt by this betrayal, I’ll attempt to gather my composure and continue this interview.
Kuma: That being said, I find it funny that you felt the need to live up to your following so much that you felt the need to create aliases just for freedom of expression. I wasn’t nearly as hardcore into the ddr scene as some of my friends were, but was that really a necessity now that you look back on it? Did you really feel you’d let people if you went from like…drum and bass to footwork?
Petriform: A necessity? Maybe not. From drum and bass to footwork, definitely not. But I’ve done some pretty off-the-wall stuff like harsh noise, drone, and speedcore before, stuff that isn’t actively featured on the front page of my website and whatnot, where there’s a real night and day difference that I feel a lot of people wouldn’t really be down with. I think it gave me more peace of mind than anything, but another component to it, and perhaps this one is more reasonable, was that I was still making songs for StepMania, where the whole DDR alias diversification really starts to become immediately relevant. Many of my friends who I met through DDR or StepMania who have started composing music have done or still do the alias thing, too. I still think it’s helpful for composers and producers who don’t really have a grip on their style yet, and want to try new things.
Kuma: That’s a fair enough answer. My sadness is less profound now. That being said, your work has become much more streamlined over the past 2 or 3 years, and in particular I noticed this with the release of ‘Brown Plaid‘.
That’s not to say you don’t still diversify even within that album, but it flows much more cohesively than some of your previous work. What was your creative process like on that album and how did it differ from work you had previously done?
Petriform: ‘Brown Plaid’ is an odd one for me because I had been working on it on and off for the better part of three years, which is far longer than the work period of any other album I’ve released. In years past, I would cap off my albums with the more moody stuff that you hear reflected in ‘Brown Plaid’, but after my album ‘Exposition‘ in 2010, I stopped, because I wanted to have an album full of that kind of stuff, and I wanted it to be special. So I would write songs for it on the side in tandem with the other projects I was working on – The Cross Section’ EPs, ‘Relentless Eventful‘, and even most of my newest, ‘Veneer‘. I counted – by the time it was finally plausible for me to form ‘Brown Plaid’ cohesively, I had over 40 works-in-progress that I was considering for it. I whittled that down to the fifteen tracks I though were best suited to each other and made the most cohesive album, and that’s what got released. I haven’t had the luxury of doing that with my other albums, so its cohesion probably is far smoother. With regard to my older work, pre-2010, I was still making StepMania songs and throwing them together into albums. Cohesion in my work didn’t really exist until I was making it for myself and not as what essentially amounted to game design.
Kuma: The amount of time and focus you put into BP really shows and I’m glad you took the time to make it. For as much as any of us like a scene or feel the need to give back to it, being able to create for ourselves is just as important and I’m glad you found the time to do so. I have to say though, whittling down from 40 tracks down to 15 is quite impressive. I haven’t heard anything like that since I last interviewed SSD engage and S.P.R.Y. said that he had some 50-odd mostly complete songs laying around he still had yet to finish and release.
That being said, since you brought up the topic of your newest album, lets discuss that, shall we? By the time this interview is published, the album will have been made public, but I’ve had the pleasure of listening to it early, and I have to say, and I mean this without intent of kissing ass or buttering you up, but ‘Veneer’, along with ‘Brown Plaid’, has cemented you as one of my fave musicians in the scene. Tell me, what into making ‘Veneer’ and what did you want to get out of the experience of bringing it to fruition?
Petriform: Thank you! I created ‘Veneer’ because, since very early 2010, I hadn’t put out a full-length chiptune album – only EPs, most notably ‘Cross Section‘ and its follow-up, ‘Cross Section Part II‘. With those I was testing the waters of combining the backbone of drum and bass music with predominant chiptune leads and accompaniment – something that had certainly been done before, but I hadn’t seen a lot of personally. That, I think, might be my favorite music to make, and it turns out a lot of people liked hearing it! I knew immediately that I wanted to bring that concept to a full-length release, and the ‘Cross Section’ EPs laid down the framework for it. That desire strengthened considerably when I became close to the chiptune scene in and around the San Francisco Bay Area and started playing shows, something I hadn’t done for a few years, and under different names.
The combination of releases I’d put out recently and the experiences I’ve had thus far in that scene made ‘Veneer’ logically the next thing that I needed to make happen, and it’s happening. In creating it, I hope to have strengthened my skills in chiptune tracking, which I’m always working on improving, and concept album authorship, which I kind of halfheartedly shot for. But most importantly, I want to have created something that others can enjoy and share. I hope ‘Veneer’ fulfills that for some people.
Kuma: I definitely feel you have, and I know this will be one of those albums I share with people when I intro them to the chiptune. That being said, you mentioned performances, and you have a very big one coming up very soon, don’t you? Why don’t you tell us about Rockage 3.0 and how you got involved in this amazing follow up to Frequency 3.0!
Petriform: Yes! I’m extremely excited to participate in Rockage 3.0, and to experience it in general. Rockage 2.0 last year was probably the most fun weekend I had for all of that year, and it was also my first real exposure to the chiptune scene in my area. Previously I had simply thought that nothing was going on in local chiptune outside of San Francisco, but I was wrong – I just wasn’t looking hard enough. And, of course, I wanted in on it. So, on the last day of Rockage 2.0, I spoke with maybe three or four people and gave them a sampler of some of my chiptune material – one of those people being Eric Fanali, who runs Rockage and puts on chiptune shows, among many other shows, in and around San Jose, and my involvement in the local scene kind of snowballed from there.
What I can tell you about Rockage 3.0 is that the lineup is amazing; even better than last year. I’m so very excited to be playing the same event as many of my friends and many chiptune and VGM musicians that I have a ton of respect for. And on top of that, the plethora of free play arcade games and tournaments for prizes (if you’re going, readers, fight me at Hydro Thunder) is staggering – the fun never ends! It’s unmissable. Rockage 3.0 is at San Jose State University from February 7th to the 9th, and I hope to see you all there!
Kuma: Oh man that sounds like MAGFest all over again! I’m super upset I can’t make it and mad jelly of my friends who are going! That aside, is there anyone you’re sharing the stage with you’re especially looking forward to seeing perform? Slime Girls? Danimal Cannon? Space Town Savior? Who are you most looking forward to partying with?
Kuma: Definitely sounds like it, and I know my friends who are attending definitely can’t wait to get out there and get stupid with you. That being said, I’d once again like to thank you for taking the time to sit down for this interview. Is there anything you’d like to say in closing–shout outs, promotions, thank yous–before we wrap things up?
Petriform: Well, I’d like to thank you for having me, and ChipWIN in general for being so damn awesome! Readers, I hope you enjoy my new album, ‘Veneer’, and come out to Rockage 3.0! Let’s party!
That wraps it up for this edition of Raw Cuts. Don’t forget to follow Petriform on your fave form of social media, as well as checking out his music, including his newest release, ‘Veneer’, and my personal favorite,’Brown Plaid’, both of which you can listen to below! Last but not least, if you are in the San Jose Area next weekend, do yourself a favor and get your ass to Rockage 3.0! It is a party that is sure to impress! Peace!